The European Union is not about mysterious institutions, nor a technocrats club, it is about people. Today’s digital tools have the power to restore the democratic dialogue in Europe.
I deeply feel my identity is European. I am born French, but as a child of the “Erasmus generation”, I had the chance to study, travel and work in different European countries. I studied European affairs at the “College of Europe”, a University that formed generations of European high civil servants and politicians, committed to continue the work the European founding fathers, such as Jean Monnet, Winston Churchil and Robert Schuman, started after decades of war on the continent.
I spent an amazing year studying and living with students from more than 50 nationalities of Europe and beyond. That was a comfortable and happy bubble. Once we completed our degree, we were meant to work in Brussels, either in the European institutions, lobbies, think tanks, or take similar positions in our home countries. Again, working together in a comfortable bubble.
Brussels is full of brilliant, hard working young people from across the continent. Yet, this European technocratic sphere seems so far away from most of European citizens. Not everyone had the chance to study, nor travel in another country of the European Union. But 68 years after the Schuman declaration that started the European integration, Europe has never been more present in the life of 500 million of citizens.
Did you know that about 80% of the legislation in your Member State actually comes from the EU?
European legislation has a great impact on our daily lives. Think of the regulation on pesticides, data protection, public finances, or even bees. Of course, you should have a say on it. Be reassured, no one shall take the decisions for you if you don’t want to. The technocratic and distant European bubble has never been so close to burst.
In many EU countries, the civic tech movement is taking roots in the society. It makes it possible for people to engage digitally in the political decisions that will affect them. In a few clicks, you can see what decisions have been voted on VoteWatch Europe, you can start a European citizen initiative on citizens-initiative.eu and engage in the public debate with Talos. Those digital tools might help bring together people living kilometers away from each other. It doesn’t matter if we come from different nationalities, but share the same ideas.
You may not think so, but the EU has made a lot for transparency and engagement with citizens (maybe more than your home country but shh... don’t tell politicians!) Data and tools are already here, we just need to use them: the EU transparency register has 11,703 entries on the lobbies acting in the EU. There also exist an open data portal with 12,015 open data sets available. Would you like to put an issue on the European agenda, you can since 2007 start a european citizen initiative.
Also, several European countries are at the forefront of e-democracy, such as Estonia. Those countries can share their experience on e-administration, e-government and decision-making in the digital age. Just in February, the european Commission suggested to double the EU budget for Digitalization up to 70 billion euros.
The young motivated technocrats-to-be in Brussels, are willing to embrace the change buzzing in the society and engage with fellow citizens from all over Europe.
The European elections coming in May 2019, will be a tremendous opportunity to engage together in an open and vibrant European online public sphere. We can contribute to shape the European Union where we want to raise our children.🔷
(This piece was first published on Medium.)